Thursday, March 31, 2011

FAQ: How could a loving and all powerful God send unbelievers to hell?

This question was posed on Reddit under the Christianity subreddit. (Reddit is a site that allows for discussion of these issues and more). The title of this post was "The question that made me fall away from Christianity. Can you help me with it?" 

So:  How could a loving and all powerful God send unbelievers to hell?

Question for you: How can you know the character of God other than what He has revealed to you?

I don't want to make little of this question, this is a very difficult question for Christians of all perspectives to make sense of but an important consideration to make is that what God says is true is true. And he tells us in his scripture.

For example, by studying what scripture says exegetically we can come to the conclusion that both the OT and NT preach about an afterlife specific to those who are wicked and those who are righteous.
It is often said that the Old Testament isn't as specific regarding Hell, in fact it may be completely absent from its vernacular. However, that is only true when you hold the Hebrew language to the standard of the koine Greek.

The Old Testament uses Hebrew/English words and phrases such as the grave (Gen 23:4; Judg 2:10;2 King 23:6), the pit (Psalm 30:3;Prov 1:12; Isa 14:15), the trap (Ezek 19:4,8;Job 33:22;Psa 16:10), the earth/netherworld (Gen 1:1;Ezek 8:3; Ezek 32:18; Deut 32:33), sheol (Isa 38:10; Job 38:17), death/place of death or abaddon (Job 26:6; Psa 88:12; Prov 15:11; Prov 27:20) to refer to the place which the deceased go where they die. Often this language is depicted in phenomenological language derived from ancient burial practices. Ask me for citations if you like. One thing the language of the Old Testament is clear of is that death is a conscious thing in the Old Testament.

Moving on into the New Testament Jesus speaks of Hell often (Matt 5:22; 5:29-30; 18:9; 18:8; 10:24-25; 23:13; 23:15; Luke 12:5; Mark 9:45; Mark 9:47-48; cf. Isa 66:24; John 3:36)
Furthermore, Paul speaks of Hell by alluding to the fate of the wicked (Rom 1:32; 1 Cor 15:21; Eph 2:1; Rom 2:12; 1 Thess 5:3; Gal 6:8; Rom 2:5; Col 3:6; Rom 2:1-3, 5, 12; 1 Tim 5:24; 1 Thess 4:6; Rom 2:9). It's also in the Book of Revelation quite a bit too.

In any event, many prophets of the OT believed in conscious punishment after death, Jesus did, Paul did, the writer of Revelation did and I do. Hopefully you will believe that there is a Hell there as well.


God punishes wickedness and rebellion. Throughout the OT and the NT the wicked are punished for eternity separated from God and the righteous are with God experiencing all of those benefits. Saying God is or isn't all loving because of x y or z is at best inconclusive because we are not privy to all the information there is to know. It pretty much comes down to do you trust God's word?

I wish everyone went to Heaven, but that's not how it works. We have been commissioned to take the Gospel to the whole world, every nation, tribe and tongue (Matthew 28).